Interview with Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess
OKC fellow Michael Burgess
Michael Burgess joined the Oskar Klein Centre in mid-January as OKC fellow, after finishing his PhD in the US. His specialty is GRBs and that is why he joined with Felix Ryde in the KTH group.

Why did you choose the Oskar Klein Centre for doing a postdoc?
When I was working on my PhD I studied a lot from the research that was occurring within the gamma-ray burst team of the OKC. When the possibility opened that I could come work with them I jumped to take it. It was really my first choice after graduate school. In addition, I think Sweden has a generally forward looking view when it comes to science compared with the US. It is appreciated here and I wanted to work in that kind of environment. There are so many projects going on both within and outside my field here that I’m sure I will be able to expand upon my current skill set and perhaps become involved in other fields.

How would you describe the experience of working in the OKC so far?
It has been a great experience so far. The variety of research that is going on both within the OKC and the institute in general has provided me with lots of resources to learn new subjects and improve my skills within my own field. The wealth of knowledge here is fresh and exciting.

What is your field of research and the project you are involved with?
I study the gamma-ray spectra of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). My main project has been taking the theoretically predicted spectral models that have been around for some time and directly comparing them to the data instead of using the standard empirical models. The project has been quite fruitful and really builds upon work that has been occurring at the OKC for years. From this approach of physical modeling, we are extending the work done in the past with mainly empirical models and digging deeper into the structure of GRB jets and beginning to piece together the relatively unknown processes occurring in these star-shattereing events.

What do you find unique for your field of research about the OKC?
The experience with spectral analysis and physical modeling is uniquely high at OKC. In addition, the researchers such as Felix Ryde and the rest of the group, here have a very keen way of connecting the complicated nature of spectral analysis in GRBs to the bigger picture of the jet. It’s very close to storytelling and makes the science they do very accessible. The competence level of the team is also quite attractive. It’s nice to see that even graduate students here are involved in the decision making for new projects and have a high level of expertise.

Tell us something about you.
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia back in the states. When I was in school, there was a very good science program in that city and I wanted to study black holes from a very early age.
I went graduate school at the University of A with the Fermi Gamma-Ray Bursts Monitor (GBM) team. While doing research on GRBs, I also had lots of access to the instrument team and gained a lot from their nearly 3 decades of experience working on GRB detection. The GBM team is great with a vibrant history and I made lots of great friends within the team. However, I always wanted to move to Scandinavia for the warm weather and sandy beaches.

And that was indeed a good reason for moving to Sweden :)
Thank you Michael!

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